Indukti gave us a nice wake up. NEARFest folks called them “melodic metal.” What they played on Sunday was more groove-oriented-with-violin than melody-oriented, but what do I know about metal? To me, metal is Black Sabbath and Poison and Voivod, whereas bands like Tool are something else that use metal as a medium. Anyway, these folks were really impressive. Driving and dreamy, if that makes any sense at all. Their most recent album is also impressive – the lead singer from Riverside (another Polish band that can most easily be compared to Porcupine Tree) does vocals for them, which helps fill out the sound, adding the one piece that I felt they could have used. The Riverside and the Indukti albums, along with a cup of coffee, are what got me out of Allentown and back home at 4:30am.
Next up were La Maschera di Cera, a very dramatic Italian band whom I also quite liked. They draw a lot on classic 70s prog, classical and operatic music. These guys I've heard before and had an idea of what to expect, and they did not disappoint, though I did hear a few complaints about the singer's voice (which is not classically pretty, but is quite strong). He's got quite a dynamic stage presence, very expansive and expressive, and it really didn't matter much that the only thing I understood whas “gracie” - there was enough expression that I could get a general feel about what the song was about.
(Flashback: the only other band that had a good, dynamic stage show up to that point was Magenta, all the members of which had great energy on stage, and Christina has tremendous charisma – even before I'd seen them play or had any idea who she was, or that she was in one of the bands, I'd seen her just moving around in the crowds and talking to people, and just the way she moved and spoke and such was memorable. The other bands (I'm exempting Bob Drake from this, because what he was doing was just different enough from everyone else that he can't really be compared) pretty much stood where they were and played their instruments – great to see and hear this stuff live, but not terribly showmanlike.)
I poked my head in for Robert Rich, but it was the middle of the afternoon, and I was tired and hungry, and I'm not a terribly big fan of ambient music (“music to watch goldfish by,” as my friend Dave says). So I can't really comment on his work. I spoke with him on Saturday. He's very nice, and has a tremendous catalog, all of which he's managed to keep in print, and he had a really great tshirt for sale (which I now own).
So... then came Pure Reason Revolution, a “post-rock” group, whatever that means. I'm just not getting this categorization stuff. I found their album mildly interesting, but not jump-up-and-down interesting, and I'd certainly not have taken any real pains to go somewhere just to see them. But. Damn. They apparently lost their keyboard/violin player, which meant that those parts needed to be either sequenced, covered by one of the other musicians, or dropped. The result was fantastic. A lot more raw than the album, with a great energy. They still have the amazing harmonies, but this performance clearly showed that the album was way too overproduced. I was very impressed. The people sitting next to us walked out after 2 songs. People seemed to react in one of two ways – either blown away (as I was), or they hated it.
“Why are they even here?” one guy asked me. “That's not even prog.” He was offended that he had to listen to that crap. “There were no key changes, or time signature changes, or anything even remotely proglike. They don't even know how to play their instruments!”
“How do you define prog?” I asked. And, “It's good to be exposed to all sorts of things, and all sorts of music. Otherwise, how are you gonna know what you like and what you don't like?”
“Well,” he said, with a grimace, “Now I know I don't like that.”
We skipped out on Magma, which I would have liked to see, but we decided to run out to the lavishly elegant Sterling Hotel in Allentown where Hawkwind were playing. I'll need to check out Magma some other time – the concept is fascinating and I hear they can put on a great show (Gordon has seen them several times and reports that they are either amazing or they suck, and it all depends on whether they gel that night or not).
So let me tell you about Hawkwind. I picked up some Hawkwind before, listened to it, and just Didn't Get It. I gave it a few listens and still didn't get it. Picked up a different Hawkwind album and still didn't get it. Saw them Saturday. Ok. Now I sorta get it. But you know, Hawkwind at a music hall wherein orchestras play, with a seated audience that shows their enthusiasm for a song by nodding their heads a bit in time with the music is really sorta antithetical to the whole feel of that band, and I wanted to see them. We'd also met Cyndee, a space-rock violinist who was also playing that night, so we figured that would be a good place to be. THAT was a great show. Yesterday I pulled out one of my Hawkwind disks, and yes, now I Get It. What a bizarre collection of people showed up for that – old bikers and young punks and a very distinguished couple in their 70s and a young woman who looked like she was dressing to drink mint juleps on the porch, and everything in between. It's been a long time since I've been to a concert and caught the sweet scent of cannabis wafting over from somewhere nearby. It's been a long time since that first Rush concert I went to where, up on the third level of the Spectrum, we got stoned out of minds from the second hand smoke.
I played Sonic Attack for Linda today. “Imagine you're at a concert and tripping your brains out,” I said, “and then suddenly you hear this.” And I pushed play. And she looked at me in horror. Hawkwind is sorta like what the Grateful Dead would be in the Evil Bearded Spock universe. I don't think I'd trust them, but I definitely like them.
Milo (our gentle and loving parrot) displays a very definite reaction to Hawkwind. He stretches his body out and turns his head to look at the speakers with one eye and makes disapproving noises.
In other news, while I was at the Gryphon Cafe (where I wrote most of this post) for nourishment and stimulants, a little girl at the table next to mine took her chocolate chip cookie and broke it into small pieces and arranged them in a circle on her plate, and then placed some of the pieces in the middle of the plate. I looked at it and said, "It's Cookiehenge!" And her father laughed and tried to explain Stonehenge to her, and I found a picture online for her. She'd actually done a fairly accurate rendering. Unfortunately, I didn't think to get a picture of Cookiehenge.